Russia in World War One.

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Plain Old Dave
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Russia in World War One.

Post by Plain Old Dave » 16 Sep 2018 19:26

An interesting question developed in another thread that seemed worthy of discussion here.

Russia.

While Brest-Litovsk wasn't til March 1918, Russia had been in chaos since at least later 1916. This enabled Germany and the Central Powers to reallocate resources, such as the U boat campaign that was 2 months from forcing England out of the war and the offensive that resulted in the French mutinies of 1917. Germany had to hold the line in a 2 front war, but without Russia, she HAD to go for broke to force Britain or France out before the Americans could participate in any appreciable manner after our declaration of war in 1917. But let's back up about 3 years.

Russia was an agrarian power in 1914, but she had the same strategic advantage the US had during the Civil War: Manpower. This is interesting and gives us an idea of the scale we're talking about; in 1914, Russia had nearly 7 million troops quickly available for battle, including reserves and excluding draftees. This is very close to what the Central Powers had, combined. Some figures allow that Russia had a manpower pool of another 5-7 million. Russia was not an industrial power, having been beaten pretty convincingly by the Japanese in 1905. However, 1914 Russia had the exact same strategic advantage the United States had in 1861, the same one that has served Russia well in conflicts going back to the days of Fredrick the Great: Manpower, the Russian Steamroller. The sole reason the Civil War drug on for four years was there was no real will at the National Command Authority level to make use of this huge advantage. Once Grant took over in the East, though, and started making use of his main advantage, a nearly bottomless pool of manpower, Confederate defeat was a simple matter of time. Grant could make good on losses from meat-grinders like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor and Lee COULDN'T.

So, 1914.

Let's consider Tannenberg with a General in charge OTHER than Samsonov, and a National Command Authority structure willing to accept tremendous losses. Tannenberg as a slugfest similar to the Wilderness in May 1864; our nameless Russian General accepts a tactical stalemate and presses on towards Germany, realizing he has nearly as many troops to draw from as the Central Powers do, combined. He has sustained a lot of casualties he can replace, while the Germans have sustained a lot of casualties they CAN'T.

Floor's open.

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by maltesefalcon » 16 Sep 2018 20:20

Your analysis is a vast oversimplification of the issues. I will cite your non-contempory example. The main reason the South lost was not just due to manpower in the field. They were perennially outnumbered both in population and field army strength throughout the war, but held their own until late 1863.

However it was logistics that dragged them down. The South was an agrarian economy with a hastily upgraded manufacturing base that could never rival that of the North. Equally important, they had a smaller railway system and rudimentary navy. The effective blockade by the US Navy curtailed both the flow of cotton for cash and the European made goods they bought with it.

Thus the North could use the various rivers for transport more or less at will, while the South relied on a rapidly shrinking rail network. It is telling that in the midst of the continents best farming area for food and cotton, Confederate troops starved in threadbare uniforms.

In the last 18 months of the war, the North forced the South to fight for major cities. This reduced their mobility allowing Grants batter and storm tactics to succeed.

Moving to the WWI era, Russia had many troops to draw from. But the troops had poor equipment, and both they and the populace were sore pressed to even find food in the winter of 1916-17. The Germans had much better air support and artillery as well. By the summer of 1917 the troops had no fight left in them no matter how many were to hand.

If the Anglo-French Dardanelles campaign had succeeded in opening a supply route, perhaps things would have been different.
Last edited by maltesefalcon on 16 Sep 2018 22:30, edited 1 time in total.

Plain Old Dave
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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Plain Old Dave » 16 Sep 2018 20:38

Logistics is overrated. Just like Sherman's Army did in 1864, the Russians coild live off the land.

And you misunderstand the strategic goal of the Army of the Potomac. Their sole goal after Spring 1864 was destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia as a combat force. Russia could have a similar goal; find the German Army and engage. With a 10 million+ manpower pool to draw from, it's hard to see much that could stop the same Russian Steamroller that plowed Napoleon under.

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by maltesefalcon » 16 Sep 2018 20:48

The Russian steamroller actually ran in reverse until the French captured Moscow. Then the city burnt. Then the Tsar refused to accept defeat. Napolean was forced to retreat because...his men were freezing and starving and they could not find enough supplies to live off the land. They lost far more men to deprivation and freezing than they did to pitched battles.

Shermans force(which was not part of the army of the Potomac) lived off the land on a small scale and only temporarily. The equivalent of four divisions over six weeks does not equate to the scale of WWI forces, let alone ten million prospective recruits. In any case Sherman headed for Savannah in order to reopen his own lines of communication. And the war survived the destruction of The Army of Northern Virginia for more than a month.

Germans in Stalingrad nor Russians in Leningrad were not able to live off the land either.

In any case a modern army requires ammunition, medical supplies and fuel which cannot be obtained by combing enemy barnyards.

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Plain Old Dave » 17 Sep 2018 13:21

We're talking Fall 1914/Spring 1915 here, before the real advent of trench warfare . And with a Russian high command that's on board with Stalin's adage, " one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic."

Again, the scenario.

The Battle of Tannenberg. Only in this timeline as a tactical draw; Germany is not capable of massing force against weakness and curbstomping the Russians. Both Russian and German armies are battered, but intact. What happens if Russia presses her strategic advantage of overwhelming manpower in the aftermath of an inconclusive Tannenberg?

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Stiltzkin » 17 Sep 2018 13:50

Napolean was forced to retreat because
Thats actually a common misconception, from the primary sources we know that he left on his own though. He could have stayed actually, but what for (he asked himself). Logistics are very important, living off the land will never cover the entire needs, most armies actually always relied on caravan/supply stocks, this was no different for Napoleon, but it is rather hard to fill up if you have to return the same way you have already looted before on your way to the capital.

Regarding WW1, the reason was that Russian advances were extremely predictable, there were only few directions which they would attack from, because of the (limited) network of railways. Everything else was no different from WW2, the tactical superiority of German forces over Russian enabled them to inflict quick defeats, destroying their armies in the Western districts was not impossible to achieve. Context of the campaign is important and Mission setting and accomplishment.
Last edited by Stiltzkin on 17 Sep 2018 13:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by pugsville » 17 Sep 2018 13:58

Having millions on Men in the Russian Army is one thing. Ability to move, equip, supply and command them is anther thing entirely.

The Russians would struggle to get more men into combat in 1914 than they did historically,

As always logistics matter.

In 1914 Russian railways were at capacity, moving more troops and supplying them could only be done by not moving or supplying others.

Once the Russians left their own rail-heads they faced bigger problems moving move supplies for Russian troops into EastPrussia could be done how?

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Plain Old Dave » 17 Sep 2018 14:20

Logistics is a side issue.

What happens if Russia presses her strategic advantage of overwhelming manpower in the aftermath of an inconclusive Tannenberg?

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by BDV » 17 Sep 2018 16:10

Plain Old Dave wrote: What happens if Russia presses her strategic advantage of overwhelming manpower in the aftermath of an inconclusive Tannenberg?
They did that in Habsburg Galicia, breaking the back of the KuK Empire. What you propose they do alternatively?

The manpower strategic advantage exists only to the extent these men can be trained, armed, and supplied on the battlefield.

Lesson thoroughly learned and applied by Bolshevik but not by Nazis 25 yrs later
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by ljadw » 17 Sep 2018 16:17

The Russian overwhelming manpower in 1914 does not exist : Russia mobilized only small additional forces in 1914 ,only a part were going to the front,and only a part of this part against the Germans : most men (reservists/recruits were called up only after 1914 ) .

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Plain Old Dave » 17 Sep 2018 16:28

BDV wrote:
17 Sep 2018 16:10
Plain Old Dave wrote: What you propose they do alternatively?
Exactly what Grant did in the Summer of 1864: make the German Army in the East the tactical and strategic objective. A meat grinding campaign of attrition.

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by BDV » 17 Sep 2018 17:03

Yes, what, exactly
Nobody expects the Fallschirm! Our chief weapon is surprise; surprise and fear; fear and surprise. Our 2 weapons are fear and surprise; and ruthless efficiency. Our *3* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency; and almost fanatical devotion

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by South » 17 Sep 2018 20:14

Good afternoon Maltesefalcon,

The club seeks new members. Membership requires oversimplification.

Not "the" but "a main reason" the Confederacy (All of the South not in the confederacy. Enclaves like some forts, eg Fort Jefferson, Dry Torgugas, Florida, was US-controlled US territory.) lost was because the government was a CONFEDERACY. Today, we realize strong central governments are needed to administer a nation-state. Lincoln realized this also.

The "South" was a primarily agrarian economy but not exclusively. New Orleans, Charleston and Norfolk were thriving ports. I recall General Sherman, famous for providing material for WWI's General Erich Ludendorff to study, was the "headmaster" or whatever title used, for a military academy in New Orleans. Although well prior to the approaching onset of military hostilities, the "South" had more wealth than the "North".......if this can even realistically be measured for comparison. Review the 2 tariffs complaints.

~ Bob
eastern Virginia, USA

South
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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by South » 17 Sep 2018 20:33

Good afternoon all,

A balancing act is required and a review of what happened requires a balancing act.....not a delicate balance but a rough one.

Logistics is always required within the basic meaning of the term. Whether maintaining horses or trucks, some sort of support systems are required.

......

Maltesefalcon; Some modern armies used (and it continues today with refinements) resupply methods different than the plunder method and the traditional wagon train of the Quartermaster Corps.

Chairman Mao can explain.

The word "cache" involved.

As an aside; There's a term in the English language called "Metonymy". A metonymy uses the name of something for that of another. For example, if you read in the Old York Times "The White House said", the building didn't talk but the building represents the President of key representative of the President. Thus, when reading "Studebaker trucks", use the broad picture and not the Quartermaster inventories. If someone says "Napoleon 12 pounder", it could also mean artillery in general.

~ Bob
eastern Virginia, USA

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Re: Russia in World War One.

Post by Stiltzkin » 17 Sep 2018 21:25

What happens if Russia presses her strategic advantage of overwhelming manpower in the aftermath of an inconclusive Tannenberg?
Without logistics it breaks apart :D , alright that aside if we forget that aspect for a moment, well if it can field more than the force equilibrium while the German army is tied in the west, it looks bad for the Central powers. They would have to knock out Austria-Hungary first and then threaten Berlin.
Lets assume they receive financial and substantial economic aid to prevent collapse, I can see how that would have forced a shift in the strategic focus in the General staff. It would of course rely on Imperial Russias ability to maneuver, siege and overcome the defenses (this was certainly more challenging during the 1910-20s than it was in the 40s).
WW1 was much more influenced by economic power than WW2, the essence of this conflict, where one nation collapsed after the other (like Dominos), based on their economic potential. Combat exhaustion kicked in. While Soviet economy was still comparatively less stable, they prepared 20 years for an expansionistic war, which was one of the reasons why they survived Barbarossa. I think without the incentive and immediate threat of "annihilation" I cannot see how they would keep the soldiers motivated in the more and more crumbling feudal system of Imperial Russia (and all other European nations as well).
Note that France had the highest percentage of trained personnel in relation to male population of military age during that time.
I can imagine and say for sure that if Germany pushed towards Moscow during WW1, the outcome might have been the same as WW2, but as long as they engaged the Russian forces in the Westen districts, Russias advances would have been thwarted, we have seen this repeatedly in WW1, in the Polish-Bolshevik and Winter War.
Germany suffered over 1,000,000 operational losses on "other fronts" during WW1, with approx. 300,000 fallen, not an insignificant number.

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